"Flight Captain Varda," Wing Commander Haldur's eye's bored into me, "Do you have an explanation for why your wing was derelict in its duty?"
"No sir." I did, but not one that he would appreciate. Beside me Tevan stirred. I wanted to tell him to keep his trap shut -- or better, to cleave his tongue to the roof of his mouth. Wing Commander Haldur probably wouldn't notice the flashback from the spell. But I dared not take that chance.
Tevan piped up, "It was my fault. My seatur--"
Haldur silenced him with a look that threatened emasculation if he continued to be insubordinate. "Flight Captain," He flipped open the file that lay in front of him, "This is the second ... no, it's the third time your wing has failed since the year's turn." He looked from me to Tevan and back to me again. I caught his meaning. Since Tevan joined my wing as my pilot. Haldur arched an eyebrow at me. "Is there anything you wish to say about that?"
How was I supposed to answer? If I denied there was anything going on between Tevan and me, Haldur wouldn't believe it. "It won't happen again, sir. You have my word."
"I'll have your pips if it does. This time it'll cost you thirty days pay. Dismissed."
When the door closed behind us I rounded on Tevan. "Jaidick, Tevan! Is there any danger you might just be able to control that wretched beast then next time we fly? Or am I expecting too much?" Before he could reply I snarled at him, "Get out of my way," and stamped off.
It took five long cycles to get my Flight Captain's pips, and knowing Wing Commander Haldur, he'd make good on his threat if we failed again. Our job is to provide cover for the rest of the wing. The fact that, for reasons beyond my understanding, Tevan chooses to fly an unaltered seatur was no excuse for us failing to be in place before the attack began... again.
I was still seething when I reached The Weary Wench. The official name of the inn is The Queen's Rest, but the Flights stationed at Craigfelin renamed it long before my father served here. As I shoved open the door, the spicy aroma of liral stew engulfed me. They make the best liral stew I've ever eaten. It's even better than Ma's, and that's saying something. Garick was sure to be here if they were serving that.
I shouldered my way through the ocean of gray-blue uniformed Fight crews to the bar. A skinny lad wearing an apron big enough to wrap around him twice dived past me. I grabbed his arm. "Where's Garick?
He squirmed out of my grip. "Haven't seen him," he said as he disappeared into the kitchen.
Several members of my crew leaned against the bar. I slapped a five-talon piece down on the counter. "Drinks for the Flight, boys. Well done." To save them the embarrassment of having to thank me after what had happened earlier in the day, I added, "Seen Garick?" They know about Garick and me. Everyone within a half-day's march knows about Garick and me. Everyone except the Wing Commander, apparently.
They hadn't seen him either. I ordered a double measure of varich and tossed it down in one gulp. It brought tears to my eyes as it burned its way down. But it didn't make me feel any better.